As general manager of Via Forno Wood Fired Cucina & Vinoteca in Scarsdale, Walter Burmer works hard to “create a great atmosphere and make sure customers are properly taken care of.” He says that includes being a welcoming presence on the restaurant floor, assisting servers and bartenders with everything they need to keep diners happy and satisfied, managing payroll and distribution of tips, and crunching the numbers on which dishes sell best. His average day runs about 12 hours; once a week, it’s even longer.
On Thursday evenings at Via Forno, the 27-year-old native of the Berkshires stashes his GM hat in the back, grabs his guitar and a mic, and sets a mellow mood with original and cover songs about love and life. “I take pride in playing different music from what you usually hear when you’re out at a bar,” he says. His lineup is dominated by the lesser-known works of John Mayer, the Dave Matthews Band, Tom Petty, and the Grateful Dead, along with original compositions, like “Crowns,” which streams on Spotify.
Burmer first picked up a guitar at about 10 years old and remembers exactly why he did. “My father had just introduced me to Black Sabbath, and I was with a family friend who was a little older than me, and she started playing ‘Iron Man’ on the guitar,” he recalls. “I didn’t know that someone could do what I heard on the radio.”
“I take pride in playing different music from what you usually hear when you’re out at a bar.”
By high school, he had mastered the instrument and was singing and writing music. He performed regularly around his tiny Massachusetts hometown of Middlefield but had gotten the itch to test a bigger audience. After moving to Scarsdale, he scored a few gigs at NYC’s Rockwood Music Hall, but then COVID hit.
It was during the pandemic that a friend asked him to sing “Happy Birthday” to another friend over the phone. “We looked at each other and said, ‘This is a business idea!’” He started calling friends and family, singing to them anonymously for birthdays and other occasions. Before long, Burmer launched the InSong Greetings app.
A new and improved version (under construction at press time) will be “like Uber for singing telegrams, with personalized and very heartwarming” video messages. “I moved here to take my shot at being a performer, but then everything shut down,” says Burmer. “I’m now starting to pursue my dream again.”
And he will continue chasing that dream while keeping a pair of Italian wood-fired ovens humming alongside him.